Last updated: 04:44 PM ET, Tue August 25 2015

Dispatch: The Virgin's Trip to Chicago - Day 2

Features & Advice | Tom Bastek | August 24, 2015

Dispatch: The Virgin's Trip to Chicago - Day 2

Photos courtesy of Tom Bastek

After a good night’s sleep and a light breakfast, we’re off to try to beat the crowds at the Willis Tower. 

This is one of those places where the CityPass totally is a benefit. When we took the elevator down to the lower level (I know, ironic that you have to go down in order to go up), we were immediately guided to the express ticketing lane and left everyone else in the dust. Then right to the head of the line at security and boom, we were in the elevator and avoided at least a 30-minute wait.

The view from Skydeck Chicago is fantastic, an amazing 360-degree vista, but that was only the half of it. 

With the Sea and Air show coming up, the Blue Angels were going over their practice runs and literally buzzing the tower like Maverick in "Top Gun." 

Then we went out onto “The Ledge.” I am not really all that afraid of heights, but I am also a little more careful about taking unnecessary risks. For instance, if you don’t want to die jumping out of airplane, don’t jump out of an airplane. In this case it was, “if you don’t want to fall through a piece of glass, down 103 floors to your death, don’t step out onto the glass balcony.” But I manned up, bit the bullet and joined my wife out over the traffic and even posed for picture. OK, now that we are done with that …

Across the river from the Willis Tower is where we had planned to grab the Metra out to Brookfield. We had a little time to kill and started to walk around when we realized that we were actually at Union Station, one of the most beautiful train stations in the country. We suddenly remembered that this was the location where they shot the climatic scenes for “The Untouchables.” I had to find that staircase where the baby carriage was bouncing down while Kevin Costner and Andy Garcia were taking out the bad guys. Unfortunately, after 90-plus years the staircases are in need of repair so the Canal Street entrances were closed to the public. Oh well, you have to leave something for the next time.

We grabbed seats on the Metra’s BNSF Line and took the commuter rail out to the Brookfield station and then made the mile walk to the Galloping Ghost Arcade. For those who don’t know, the Chicago metro area has a pretty great lineup of old school arcades and venues. The newest of which is Level 257, a fully dedicated Pac-Man bar/restaurant with a bowling alley, arcade with new and old-school games as well as an area to play tabletop games. But today we were heading to the Galloping Ghost Arcade where they have over 400 games. The selection is incredible, although being a pinball guy, I would have loved to see more working games of that type. At $15 to play for the whole day, even though we only stayed for slightly less than two hours, we more than got our money’s worth. 

The Metra was comfortable again back into the city and the conductor was extremely friendly. And it was like that almost everywhere we went in the city — there was always an abundance of smiling faces and warm handshakes.  Every bus driver we asked for help took time out to tell us exactly where we needed to go. Every person that helped us in restaurants, stores, or attractions were fantastic. Way to go Chicago! There are quite a few cities that could take a lesson from you.

With hunger setting in, it was time to channel my inner Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago, and find us some kielbasa and pierogies. Just a quick “L” ride away from Union Station brought us to Pierogi Heaven. They have two locations in the city, and I did my Polish Heritage proud by getting not just nine pierogies and two full pieces of kielbasa, but also grilled onions and sauerkraut. Plus the sausage also came with two scoops of mashed potatoes. All that food with two drinks for $20 —you just can’t beat that deal. 

Filled up and ready to get some more walking in, we headed back to the hotel to change and head out to Soldier Field. We met a friend and pre-gamed at Kitty O’Shea’s and then walked over to the stadium. Another great advantage to staying at the Hilton Chicago: walking distance to the big game. And we weren’t the only ones. A lot of people take the “L” down to Roosevelt and hoof it the rest of the way. We were way the heck up in the nosebleeds, but what an outstanding view. We had the lake to the right, the skyline and Navy Pier to the left and almost every seat in the house has a great view of the game. Bears win and we enjoyed some elephant ears on the promenade while watching the final few seconds. Didn’t even have the Fitbit on for the walk to the stadium and back and we still racked up 22,256 steps. Sleep will once again come easy tonight. Day three, here we come.

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